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Labour Union Meets Minister, Kicks Against Water Resources Bill

By Martin Paul, Abuja

The Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE) and a non-governmental organization(NGO),Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA yesterday restated their opposition to the Water Resources Bill before the National Assembly.

Representatives of the labour union and the NGO  met with the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu in Abuja at a meeting called by  the  Minister to mobilise support for the contentious bill.

AUPCTRE, which is an affiliate of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and CAPPA, were adamant at the meeting and insisted that the pro-privatisation sections should be removed from the Bill or else it should be trashed.

The labour group and the CSO at the meeting restated their demands for the National Assembly to jettison the National Water Resources Bill 2020, alleging that the bill failed to address human rights issues and did not enjoy the support of Nigerians.

 The meeting, which was at the instance of the minister, followed A nation-wide criticism that trailed  the bill’s re-emergence, after it was defeated by both chambers of in the Eighth Assembly in 2018.

AUPCTRE and CAPPA had in a press briefing on August 21, 2020, raised fears that the Bill will fling the doors wide open for private entities to seize the nation’s water resources and had in a joint letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on September 3, 2020, catalogued obnoxious sections of the Bill and how they posed danger to the attainment of the Human Right to Water.

 In the last two weeks, civil society and other groups have also criticized the Bill.

 Notable Nigerians and organisations that had kicked against it include the playwright and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, Dr. Yinka Odumakin of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, and the Ijaw Youth Council.

Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom had threatened to sue the National Assembly, if it went ahead with the Bill, while his predecessor and Senator representing Benue North East Senatorial District, Gabriel Suswam also called for withdrawal of the Bill.

The Bill titled: “An Act to Establish a Regulatory Framework for the Water Resources Sector in Nigeria”, provides for the equitable and sustainable development management, use and conservation of Nigeria’s Surface Water and Ground Water Resources and for related matters, had scaled a second reading in the House of Representatives and has been referred to the House Committee on Rules and Business for further action.

AUPCTRE and CAPPA raised concerns about Sections 1, 2, 3, 13, 22, 24, 89, 98, 104, 105 and 107. As well as Sections 109, 110, 120, 121, 125, 129 and 131.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, National President of AUPCTRE, Comrade Benjamin Anthony said: “Our meeting with the Minister of Water Resources was very frank.

“The minister advanced reasons why the Bill should be passed, but we drew his attention to the contentious clauses that must be addressed. “We restate our opposition to this anti-people Bill and urge the National Assembly to trash it.

“The Bill fails to address human rights issues and does not enjoy the support of Nigerians. Comrade Anthony insisted that the Bill will dispossess Nigerian citizens of their inherited and cultural rights to water and should be discarded immediately.

 Also speaking, CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor said: The contents of the Bill are against the spirit of the July 28, 2010, United Nations General Assembly Resolution, which recognized in unmistakable terms, the human right to water and sanitation.

“Our position remains unchanged: President Buhari should use his good office to recall this contentious Bill from the legislative quarters and kick-start a fresh process, which will entail consultation and input from Nigerians from the beginning through the entire process at the National Assembly”.

Don’t Politicise the Bill – FG

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has warned that the National Water Resources Bill should not be politicised, saying the law was  consistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Land Use Act.

The ministry had also urged Nigerians to disregard misleading allegations, which were evident from the various commentaries noticed from those opposing the Bill.

The Minister, in a statement noted that the Bill was not a new law; rather an amalgamation of Water Resources Laws that had been in existence as enshrined in LFN 2004.

He said reports in the media appeared to had neglected the provisions of the bill which was for the development, management and efficient use of the nation’s water resources in line with global best practices.

The Minister further appealed to stakeholders and Nigerians in general to have faith in the bill as it was for the good of the nation.

 “It is in the overall best interest of every citizen of the country that the process of its passage is not politicised.

“The general public is invited to note that this National Water Resources Bill when passed into Law will better serve and provide for the enhancement of the Nigeria Water Sector in line with global best practices,” he explained in a statement.

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